The Back of Beyond (1954)

Film details

Synopsis

The development of inland Australia depends on the men and women of the interior who are prepared to face the relentless cycle of droughts and floods to raise cattle and sheep, and secondly on the men who are prepared to fight dust storms and extremes of heat and cold as part of their daily lives to keep open the supply lines and communications.

There are many such groups of people in inland Australia - along Manning Stock Route in the far north of Western Australia, along the Muranjai Track in the Northern Territory - but perhaps none deserves such a high place in Australian history as the people of the Birdsville Track in the north of South Australia.

The Birdsville Track is over three hundred miles long and, in terms of physical and mental isolation, it is probably without parallel. It joins Marree in South Australia to Birdsville in Queensland and is the main stock route for cattle moving south from the stations of Western Queensland and Eastern Northern Territory. It crosses not only deserts of sand and stones and endless gibber plains that pulverise the animals' feet, but crosses also the notorious Channel Country which, in a few weeks, can turn from a dry maze of wide bare channels to an inland sea - forty miles wide.

Forty years ago at the height of the first big inland migration, there were some fifteen to twenty stations along the track. Today there are only five. The others have gone - beaten by loneliness and drought.

In planning this film it was relaised that not one film could ever do justice to the subject, but it was thought and hoped that at least an impression could be captured. Hence the film was designed in an impressionist style, and is not the story of one man or one family or the story of the Track itself. Rather it is an impression of the life of the Inland, the great open spaces beyond the sunset, in which the Birdsville Track is the stage and the people along it are the actors.

Cast & Credits

Latest from the BFI

  • Latest from the BFI

    Latest news, features and opinion.

More information

Films, TV and people

  • Films, TV and people

    Film lists and highlights from BFI Player.

More information

Sight & Sound magazine

  • Sight & Sound magazine

    Reviews, interviews and features from the international film magazine.

More information

Back to the top